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Photosbycate Weblog

A Photo Essay Blog

Ēostre – Pagan Goddess of Spring

Walking with the Pagan Goddess of Spring,

Is quite amazing and awe inspiring.

She caresses each tree with a smooth translucent hand,

Provoking branches to sway and sigh across the land.

Evoking tight pods of tiny new leaves

To be coaxed out by the sun’s celestial energies.

The flowerets twirl up and out of the ground,

Shaking out full heads of colorful petals, unbound.

With petite supple feet this Goddess treads,

And as she steps a soft carpet of grass does spread.

Her mother Gaia sends forth a warm welcome of fragrant breezes.

The daughter responds with a bounty of flora that pleases.

Embrace this Season of Regeneration.

Enjoy this Easter Celebration.

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What I See When I’m not Looking

This past Sunday, although a beautiful warm spring day, I was feeling a little out of sorts. I decided that a few hours spent with my camera while wandering through the neighborhood, would brighten my mood.

Walking along Astoria Boulevard I kept looking for something different and visually appealing which was proving to be a fruitless effort. The scenery looked just the same as it always did. Standing on a corner waiting for the light to change it occurred to me to stop looking and start seeing; let the subject matter find me.

In so doing, my eyes re-focused and the world became a series of patterns, colors, shadows, curves and angles. This method has always helped me to create my urban images, my art. At times these images may not be “pretty” and I’m sure, some make most people scratch their heads and say “Who the hell takes a photo of a dirty discarded coffee cup?!” But, you must admit this type of photography, capturing this mundane and much avoided subject matter, does grab ones attention. Hopefully, it changes the perception or paradigm on what “taking a photograph” is all about. It ain’t just flowers, rolling landscapes or a pretty face.

Having put myself in a more positive frame of mind my spirits rose and for the next three hours I was in the zone taking pleasure in the grit and grunge of Astoria’s urban landscape.  Suddenly, there was a lot of subject matter to choose from. Everything seemed to catch my eye especially the bright colors brought out by the contrasting blue sky and the challenging bright afternoon sunlight.

On this walk I found myself mostly drawn to walls, brick walls that have become street canvases displaying sidewalk philosophy and graffiti tattoos. Right across the street from the Q69 bus stop and off of Ditmars Boulevard, is a dead end street. On one side of this street are a few homes and small apartment buildings. The other side is a cadre of brick walls, the back end of small stores that face 31st street. I prowled up and down inspecting each section until I saw what I wanted and pressed the shutter.  Galvanized doors, black wrought iron window bars, a criss-crossing of those ubiquitous licorice lines of communication, peeling paint; all of these things came together to create an image of urban life. I used manhole covers, discarded boxes, aged telephone poles and sewer drains to ad punch and depth to the compositions.

All in all, this day turned out to be a very satisfying and interesting exercise in creativity. Enjoy!

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Last week, while photographing the orchids at the Bronx Botanical Gardens with my DSLR, I had back-tracked for about 30 minutes taking photos with my iPhone using the fish-eye lens. I had completely forgotten about these images until today when I was demonstrating the iPhone lens kit to a  neighbor and saw the photos stored on the phone. Downloading them onto my computer brought back the memories I had while taking these images.

Looking through the fish-eye these soft pretty plants and flowers took on a new persona, aside from the globe terrarium look, their distortions appeared almost menacing. There were a few that seemed to be rearing up into my face, challenging, staring me down. One stuck its yellow tongue out at me as another dropped its jaw and laughed. A beautiful purple speckled orchid appeared to have a sharp tiny beak!  Large thick vines under the conservancy dome lashed out over my head like arms trying to grab me, while a lotus blossom, dainty and pink climbed out of the water towards my feet.

Amazing the things my mind and this lens can conjure up, ay? My neighbor was blown away.

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Orchids and the Harbingers of Spring

The tail end of winter can be an anxious time of the year. You know that spring is just around the corner but, you also know that winter can be stubborn and refuse to leave with any grace and, out of spite might drop another few feet of snow on your front stoop.

I needed to go someplace that would show me spring was indeed on the way. That place was the Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Gardens a.k.a., the Bronx Botanical Gardens.  I hopped aboard a Metro North train out of Grand Central Station to the gardens and once there followed the crowd to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.  As always, this annual exhibit was jammed packed with people of all walks of life and I was cheek to jowl with other photographers. I oozed through the crush of bodies, keeping a sharp eye out for a momentary opening in the masses, to take a few unobstructed photos before getting swept up in the human current and carried toward the next tropical beauty.

No matter how many times I visit the conservatory, I am always mesmerized by the vibrant color that I take in with eyes which have been dulled by a long grey winter. The variety in size and shape is a marvel too, with some spotted, some speckled, some curly and some smooth; tiny blooms, large blooms clustered or climbing like vines. My absolute favorite though, was not an orchid but, a gorgeous turquoise blue Jade plant with purple stems! Hanging demurely from the ceiling, its stunning hue arrested everyone’s attention and caused a chorus of ooh’s and aah’s to issue softly from the lips of all those who looked upon it.

Exposure was a challenge inside the conservatory with the changing light and shadow. I was using my 50mm 1.4 lens which is terrific in low light but, I still at times had to adjust the ISO, shutter speed, aperture or use fill flash to ensure the detail and color of the orchids was not lost due to being under or over exposed. Therefore, I spent a lot of time standing in front of the same little orchid, pressing the shutter, checking the display, cursing under my breath and reshooting. Thank God for digital cameras.

After a few hours among these tropical plants and throngs of orchid lovers, the atmosphere had become sultry, so I pushed my way out the doors to the cool air and wide open space of the conservatory court yard.  I didn’t walk but a few feet when I came upon the incredible sculptures of the Four Seasons created by the artist Philip Haas who was inspired by the 16th-century creations of Italian Renaissance painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo.  The busts of these noble children of Mother Nature are huge, standing 15 feet high with unforgettable floral complexions, bulbous squash noses, peachy cheeks, twiggy hair and tulip teeth.

Now, the orchids where just beautiful but, they still did not prove to me that spring was coming having been born and raised, so to speak, indoors.  I needed natures proof which could only be found in the ground. So, like a blood hound with nose to the trail I walked along the brown and barren gardens, looking for the harbingers of spring.  Happily, I spotted the first and sure sign that spring is coming; the tiny cluster of yellow and white blooms of the crocus.  Once encouraged I was now seeing signs everywhere. Green shoots and leaves worming their way up from the moist cool soil and bunches of papery mauve blooms waking from a long hibernation. Tiny little buds on some bushes and a few trees. The wind blew a strong cold gust and I zipped my jacket and pulled up my hood smiling; now convinced that spring was definitely on its way.

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The Adornments of Ireland

Dark Tourmaline Hills and deep Emerald Valleys

Pale green Tsavorite covered Counties.

Bright Peridot leaves and lush Malachite Grasses.

The twinkling Chrysolite eyes, of Donegal Lasses.

These are the gems of Ireland on Display.

Wishing you a Happy Verdant St. Patrick’s Day!


Irish Saying: Give me the same as the man on the floor!

Gaelic Version: Tabhair dom an rud céanna mar atá ag an fhear ar an t-úrlar!

Pronunciation: TOR-um uh rood KAY-nah iss ah-taw egg uh VAER airh un OR-lawr





I have new toys!

The iPhone 5C and the Olloclip 3-1 lens kit.  Earlier in the week I took a few quick test shots with the phone, without the lenses, from the Ditmars train station platform as the sun was rising on Astoria, and at home using just the macro lens, (I will work more with this lens when the spring flowers are in bloom. )

Yesterday however, was grocery shopping day and since I would be walking up Ditmars I took the lenses with me and immediately fell in love with the fish-eye. For the next 2 1/2 hours, the shopping completely forgotten, I walked the neighborhood zigzagging the streets and avenues making friends with it.  We had a marvelous time. I felt like a necromancer looking at the world through my crystal ball. It took me a few shots to figure out how not to get my feet and/or shadow in the photos. This, I resolved by either getting in very close to my subject, creating terrific distortion or by pointing the phone upwards towards the sky which squeezed the landscape into a perfect ball.

I noticed that only the very center of the image is sharp and that the outer edges are a soft blur. I liked this effect especially when viewed on a larger screen when the images were downloaded. The quality is grainy but the color is spot on and the lens performed a lot better than I had thought it would.

With this lens I was able to take the ordinary and even the ugly and make it extraordinary. Common place things like a pile of dirty snow, became a piece of modern art, as did an old payphone that was stuffed with crumble used coffee cups. Cars and buildings ballooned out in cartoon shapes and telephone poles and street lights warped like soft wax candles.

I hope you enjoy this cock-eyed view of a sunny Saturday afternoon.

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Historic Monuments Old and New

This past Saturday, I took the tramway to Roosevelt Island for a late winter wander around South Point Park and, to see for the first time, the just opened FDR Four Freedoms Park.

The sun was shimmering in a cloudless blue sky and I took advantage of the large windows and fantastic aerial views, as seen from my side of the car, to capture the urban scene below me as the tram silently, smoothly sailed across the Island of Manhattan to the Island of Roosevelt.

When I alighted from the tram I headed south toward the infamous Renwick Ruin walking along the river, enjoying the suns rays on my face and the expansive views of Manhattan.  Although warm, there was still enough snow on the ground to add to the composition of each image; this was my first time on the island during the winter months. The trees on the island were absolutely beautiful in their bare natural state with twisted bows and gnarled trunks; these abstract designs against the morning sky accented the foregrounds or acted as frames for the shots.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I love to photograph old, crumbling, rusted, broken-down, laid-to-waste, structures and the Renwick Ruin, a.k.a. The Small Pox Hospital has all of the aforementioned elements. Designed by architect James Renwick, Jr., it opened in 1856 as a hospital and later a nursing school, finally closing its doors a century later where it has sat secluded, on the end of the island, slowly deteriorating.

The building is now under re-construction with future plans to reopen it to the public. But, for now, it is protected by a strong black wrought iron fence, and its skeletal remains held up by steel brace supports. Still, amidst all of the decrepitude and dilapidation the beauty of the neo-gothic architecture can be seen and admired.

Through the pane-less windows, I sensed the spirits of the forgotten looking back at me as my lens focused on fragments of this monument’s past. The sun illuminated the roofless interior and I saw part of a wall from what might have been a patient’s room. Looking up I saw the rusted remains of a staircase still climbing toward a nonexistent floor.  Vines and weeds, growing with complete abandon, have pushed, shoved and squeezed their way into every brick nook and cranny yet, this natural destruction only added to the haunting mood of the ruins.

Adjacent to the Renwick Ruin is the newly constructed FDR Four Freedoms Park, designed by architect Louis Kahn, which sits at the southernmost end of Roosevelt Island with a memorial to FDR capping the tip. The park is a narrow long spear-point of four acres bordered by a regiment of Little Leaf Linden trees. You can access the park along the river promenades on either side or walk up the wide open-air staircase of white Mount Airy granite at the base of the spear point, facing the memorial and New York Harbor behind it. The trees were the most striking part of this park at this time of year because, the bare branches were bright red contrasting sharply with the snow covered lawn and the white granite that is the foundation of this park.  The memorial, also made from this same stunning granite, is a three sided roofless enclosure cradling a floating bronze bust of FDR, who was up to his neck in snow, though still conveying his leadership and vision adroitly captured by the artist Jo Davidson.

Walking back toward the tram, I came upon a large gaggle of Canadian Geese enjoying a sunny day in the park, nibbling at tiny bits of vegetation that the melting snow revealed, curled up with beaks under their feathers taking a nap or walking up the pathways two by two. They did not seem to be bothered by me or my camera and I happily spent an hour following them around like a paparazza.

The afternoon was waning as was my energy nevertheless, before boarding the tram back to Manhattan I spent a few minutes shooting towards the lowering sun creating starbursts and silhouetting the landscape.

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Be My Valentine?

I heard the flutter of soft gossamer wings;

Along of the song a sweet Cherub sings.

I hid behind the safety of a large oak tree;

But he flitted all around until he found me.

His quiver I saw was full of those fateful darts.

Twang! He let one fly straight into my heart!

Oh mischievous Cupid has left me no choice.

And I ask you again with love in my voice.

Be My One, My Only, Be Mine.

Be My Loving Valentine?



Join me my friends as I exit the train for a Winter Wonderland Walk up Ditmars Boulevard presented by Winter Storm Maximus! His February charms and chilly charisma take over this scenic tour of my daily walk.

The trees are amazing, like tall cold cool models displaying with a windy flair their new winter coats and their cat-walk is the streets, carpeted with snow and foot prints.  In my hands, one un-gloved, being bitten red and raw by the wind but, holding firm the iPad, tapping the shutter button with my bare thumb. I hold it high up in the air, straight out in front or angled to pull the viewer straight in to the image, capturing each block from 31st Street to 77th Street.

As I walk nearing closer to home the sky darkens, the street lights brighten and the snows white light enables me to continue creating grainy noisy images of the first of this winter’s furies, until I turn onto the block where I live; the trees bow towards me and welcome me home.

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The Year of the Horse

Twenty-fourteen is the Year of the Horse,
An auspicious occasion to celebrate of course.
Fleet of hoof, graceful and strong and free as the air,
This bold Equine gallops and charges all through the year.
So, ride like the wind upon this noble beast,
To bring you good fortune and bountiful feast.

Happy Lunar New Year!

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